Simple and Effective

In a rare step off the technological path, I’ll be talking about New Year resolutions and thoughts for the New Year. My personal slogan for 2002 is “Simple and Effective”. Simple- The word simple needs no explanation. Effective- It is not to be confused with “efficient”. Effectiveness means getting the right things done. Efficient means getting things done with less force or energy.

Practice What You Preach

I’ve realized that too much effort goes into too many things with very little tangible results. One example: the Double-Think newsletter. Until today, I have worked hours to make four versions of each Double-Think: one HTML and one Text version in both English and Spanish. Starting today, Double-Think will only be sent in Text. Why? It’s Simple and Effective. You, the reader, get the same content and a format that’s easier to print out and read on the bus/train/taxi/toilet. So, I’m not just preaching this concept I’m using it.

What else it this slogan good for? Marketing campaigns? You bet. Two issues ago I discussed how Banco Santander effectively uses one color (RED) to communicate their brand. This is both simple and effective.

Other campaigns for example, Telefonica’s latest mobile telephone commercials, are very complex in nature and can be difficult to understand. In an information overload society (the attention economy), it can be quite risky to gamble on customers paying enough attention to your advertising to understand what you are trying to communicate. Stick to the basics. Keep it easy to understand.

Simple Does Not Mean Easy

Just because something is simple, does not mean that it is easier- however the objective should still be effectiveness. To streamline an idea or concept to it’s simplest form usually comes with trial and error, or a great deal of thought and planning.

Looking at my favorite example for everything- Apple Computer- I can easily make my point. Apple makes easy to use computers (even easier with the new operating system, Mac OS X). Does that mean they are cheaper computers? No. You pay a premium for an Apple computer over a normal PC. Why? Because it’s very simple to use and saves you time, tears and anger in ways that astonishes PC users.

Example number two: the new iMac computer. Apple has spent two years developing it. That is definitely NOT a short time period. What is the result? A very simple, powerful, cost competitive machine. Nokia, Ericsson, Sony and Handspring all spend great amounts of time and resources striving to make simple, easy to use machines. They are not always successful (neither is Apple) but whether consciously or unconsciously they are trying to make machines that are easy to use and do a good job doing it.

Two Words to Use

Because the slogan in itself is simple and effective, you can use them is meetings, while shopping, when dining- in almost every facet of life. In your next meeting, when someone is presenting an idea- marketing campaign, sales expansion strategy, customer attention policy, etc.- ask yourself if it is simple and effective. Then ask the presenter if there isn’t a simpler and more effective way to accomplish the same objectives.

I’ll be asking myself over the next months “Is this simple and effective?” to try to improve both my professional and personal life. I recommend you do the same. It’s not a New Year’s resolution, rather a New Year’s approach. A very intelligent man, Max Boisot, one told me once that he didn’t bother reading the news. He waited for the Economist to be published and read that. His news was “late”, but his solution to the information overload problem was simple and effective for him (and sound advice as well). It would benefit each of us to look for similar solutions in our own case.

As always, I appreciate any feedback, comments or suggestions about Double-Think. I enjoy hearing from you, and do my best to answer emails promptly. We’re coming up on Double-Think’s one year anniversary, so stay tuned…

Until next time, Happy Simplicity and Happy New Year!

Jason Ball

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